As the business of esports matures, we can expect to see increasing involvement from non-endemic brands, acknowledging this involvement and generating discussion surrounding the benefits to both esports and the brands involved, will serve to benefit the whole. And it’s our likely ally and closest neighbour, traditional sport that is leading the charge.
Adelaide Football Club COO Nigel Smart took to the stage at the ANZ Esports Conference last week discussing the lessons learned, the challenges faced, and the unforeseen victories that have arisen from Adelaide Crow’s acquisition and development of Legacy Esports.
The former professional Australian rules footballer has been a driving force of the AFL’s integration with esports, Smart spoke of the lessons learnt spending time with his son, witnessing the sheer passion and enthusiasm that younger generations display for esports.
Speaking of his team, and how impressive the level of talent in esports was; Smart calling them ‘athletes’ in passing, a small gesture that holds great impact when spoken by such a revered member of Australia’s supporting community.
Esports provides a lucrative opportunity to traditional sports, during a time of dwindling interest by younger generations, it is becoming the go too way in engaging with millennials and the younger generations, providing a solution to growth issues facing sports organisations such as the AFL.
As important in esports as is any business pitch, leveraging exploratory avenues of investment by brands vs heavy core investment, allowing teams and organizations to maintain their agility. As brands become increasingly more inclusive and diverse, so too does their investment channels, and esports is positioned uniquely to make the most of these exploratory investment opportunities.
Brands are mostly aware of the potential offered by esports, though articulating the process of reaching it is the hardest part. Trying to educate brands on topics such as organizations owning multiple teams reaching across different games, adapting existing marketing and PR infrastructure to this new industry, and many other challenges that exist to hinder sporting organizations involvement.
One of Nigel’s messages that struck close to home for me was his perspective of AFL’s involvement in esports, articulating his view that the AFL is not here to convert members of the esports community, but to involve the itself in esports, driving its participation in the space.